Health Department Director Angie Hittson

For the next flu season, Franklin County will use a company called VaxCare of Orlando, Fla., to handle billing, ordering and supplies related to flu vaccines, said Health Department Director Angie Hittson.

This is different from prior years when the county health department ordered the flu vaccine and did the billing on its own, she said.

The new arrangement should save money because the county will not take on the risk of paying for unused vaccines, she added.

Hittson said this is the main reason the county health department is using VaxCare. This is important because it can be hard to guess how much vaccine to order each year, she said.

The contract for VaxCare’s services does not cost the county anything, Hittson said, adding that 30 other health departments in the state are using the company.

The county commission recently approved the new contract.

While VaxCare will handle the billing and ordering, the vaccine will still come from the same place — Sanofi Pasteur, based in Swiftwater, Pa.

Another advantage to using VaxCare is that it will free up time for nurses to care for patients instead of their time being spent on billing work, Hittson said.

Moreover, VaxCare will allow the county health department to start taking private insurance for flu shots, whereas previously payments could only be made out of pocket or through Medicare and Medicaid, she said. She said VaxCare will accept 26 private insurances.

The cost of a flu shot was $25 at the health department this year, and Hittson said she does not know if that will change next season.

More Flu

The Franklin County Health Department is still getting new reports of flu this year.

A few cases of flu were reported to the health department Monday.

The new cases were diagnosed last Sunday and Monday, said Tony Buel, epidemiology specialist with the county health department.

As of Monday, 707 flu cases had been reported to the county health department this season, Buel said.

“Basically we have the same amount as last year, but we are still having a few trickle in,” Buel said.

Last season, 706 flu cases were reported, Buel said.

The 707 cases reported this season date back to Sept. 2.

The fact that the number of cases is almost identical as last year is “pretty amazing,” Buel said.

This flu season hit a lot earlier than last, which was the case nationally, Buel noted.

About 500 flu vaccines were given at the health department this season, Buel added.

The majority of the flu cases were in the 5-14 age group. Other cases were broken down as follows, 0-2 age group, 38 percent; 2-4, 9.9 percent; 15-24, 9.8 percent; 25-49, 18.4 percent; 50-64, 10.3 percent; and 65 and over, 5.4 percent.